Thursday, 28 January 2016
Wulfen Revealed - New Low For The Space Wolves
Some days the image really does just speak for itself. This is one of them. There's really nothing which I could add here which the image doesn't scream for itself, so i'll instead just echo the same old fandom response: Who the hell thought this looked good?
Leaked online yesterday, fans were given a new glimpse of the wulfen, the first updated design in years. There had been hints of this coming for quite some time, and after just over a decade with no updates it was a fun thing to consider. That said, it's hard to imagine anything missing the mark quite so much as this one short of making them all poodle marines. In fact, personally, i'd go so far as to say this perfectly encapsulates everything wrong with Space Wolves today.
Let's be clear - The Space Wolves have been sliding more and more towards being a joke over the last few editions, and a bad one at that. The Fifth Edition broke away from the more stoic depictions of that era to offer a louder, more bombastic chapter and seemed to push to restore some of the fun lost since the Second Edition. While more humour and a few moments of levity is hardly a bad thing, no one seemed to quite know where to draw the line. Worse still, it pushed them so far into self parody in a manner which can be best described as "wolfwolfwolfwolfwolfwolfwolfwolfywolfwolf!" Rather than being space vikings with a werewolf trait to them, the wolf element was focused upon above all else. The current game is ridiculed for reaching the point where the army has entire units riding wolves and even their very prayers invoked them more than the Allfather. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself -
Now, this isn't to say that the wolf spirits aren't a core part of them, that would be an absolute lie. However, what writers seemed to forget is that their relationship with wolves was a dangerous one. Rather than just the sheer awesome power, pack mentality and relentless nature the current codices focus upon, it was also a curse. It left the chapter isolated from the galaxy, limited to being only a rather vast chapter rather than a progenitor of a vast host of battle brothers, and at any moment one of them could fall. In much the way the Blood Angels hid their curse, the Space Wolves were haunted by the ever looming threat of the wulfen and to risk their most powerful assets overwhelming them, turning them into abominations. Released only in the times of direst need, these creatures were shunned, chained up as animals and regarded as a haunting fate which might befall their chapter. So tell me, when you take that into account, is any of this actually reflected in the models you see here?
These new wulfen are savage to be sure, but way too much focuses upon the tribal nature over anything else. It only takes one look at them to see that these aren't barely controlled animals or men lost to their primarch's curse, but instead just a bunch of feral nutters clubbing people with axes. The very fact they're all lugging about melee weapons defeats half the message behind them, showing that they're still in possession of their mental faculties enough to carry melee weapons, and that's before getting to the actual design. Short of the furry lower legs and slightly more 80s hair, these guys are quite obviously human. Well, posthuman, but you get my point - There's just way to much pale skin on display and the fact those are visibly human faces on the models doesn't help matters. It just screams "WOLFY WOLF WOLF! WOLF-POWER IS AWESOME GUYS!" in the kind of abhorrently shrill desperation usually reserved only for bad 90s Marvel comics.
Even accepting that these are supposed to be Space Wolves with more of a tribal aesthetic, what the hell happened here? Besides their leader strutting about like a hairy ballet dancer crossed with the Predator, you have four men stuck with snarls worthy of Rob Liefeld's art and weapons which don't match up with their equipment. Yeah, feral, furry and partially insane? Of course they'd be wielding some of the single most ornate weapons their chapter could produce. The fact they retain this but somehow lost the one thing you could easily justify - you know, the power armour which is all but literally drilled into their bodies - just makes this design all the more baffling. It honestly looks as if designs intended for Age of Sigmar were rejected there, and someone just recycled it for the Space Wolves. Ultimately, these are the sort of marines the actual wulfen would feel shame at simply by association.
A bigger problem still with the models is that even from these images they mount details upon details upon details. So much has changed here, there has been such a dramatic, staggering push for something wholly new that it's as if the designers have forgotten the art of simplicity. Say what you will about space marine power armour and its pauldrons of doom, but it worked because of is simple, well rounded and broad design. It was a blank canvas, easily changed and modified to suit various needs and with the eyes focusing upon a few key points. These wolf humpers? The second you try to fix in on one bit, it links into another, until you're stuck trying to follow layers upon layers of over-engineered bling. It's chaotic, uncontrolled, ill defined and - in some ways - even outright unpleasant to look at. Even the Vostroyan First Born aren't this bad, and they're some of the most ornately decorated gun fodder this side of tabletop gaming.
The reason i'm making such a big point of this however, is that this just keeps happening. Oh not as a whole, every army has its missteps once in a while, but with the Space Wolves in particular. It seems that every edition is bringing some new embarrassment, from a flying brick which manages to make the Thunderhawk Gunship look aerodynamic and literal giant wolf cavalry to the new Dreadnoughts and Santa Grimnar's steam-powered wolf slay. At almost every point the good ideas have been phased out in favour of something ridiculously bad, and it just keeps happening with this specific army. It's not as if Games Workshop is incapable of making good designs either; the Broadside replacements were beautiful, the Leman Russ redesigns were fantastic, the new space marine characters have been universally brilliant. With the Space Wolves though, it just seems that they're using them as a dumping ground for bottom-of-the-barrel designs.
While we've yet to learn what the rest of the army will look like, I can personally only hope it will be a damn sight better than these jokers.